Thoughts from Joni Eareckson Tada
"This is what God wants -- hearts burning with passion for future things, on fire for kingdom realities that are out of this world. God wants His people aflame with His Hope. A "consider it pure joy" outlook affects the way we live on earth. Though we still suffer, we become "cities on a hill" and "lights on a lamp stand" (Matthew 5:14-15) for all to see and thus be encouraged. People whose hearts are ignited for heaven make good inhabitants of earth.
It doesn't happen without suffering. Affliction is what fuels the furnace of this heaven-hearted hope. People whose lives are unscathed by affliction have a less energetic hope. Oh, they are glad to know they are going to heaven; for them, accepting Jesus was a guarantee of no hell and all heaven, like a buy-and-sell agreement -- place your sins on the counter and get an asbestos-lined soul. Once that's taken care of, they feel they can get back to life as usual -- dating and marrying, working and vacationing, spending and saving.
But suffering makes the Christian experience more than signing the dotted line on an eternal health-care contract. Suffering gives the covenant life. It turns our hearts toward the future, like a mother turning the face of her child, insisting, "Look this way!" The apostle Paul said as much to his friends as the first waves of persecution were sweeping through the church:
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth; For ye are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory."
-- Colossians 3:1-4
Once Heaven has our attention, a fervid anticipation for God's ultimate reality -- appearing with Him in glory -- begins to glow, making everything earthly pale in comparison. Earth's pain keeps crushing our hopes, reminding us this world can never satisfy; only Heaven can! And every time we begin to nestle too comfortably on this planet, God cracks open the locks of the dam to allow an ice-cold splash of suffering to wake us from our spiritual slumber.
SUFFERING KEEPS SWELLING OUR FEET SO THAT EARTH'S SHOES WON'T FIT."
from "When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty;" by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes; pages 201-202